Tuesday, August 7
Cutting Edge: Secrets, Sources And Spin
“This film examines recent first amendment battles between the Bush Administration and the press in America. How much can the press reveal about secret government programs in the war on terror without jeopardizing national security? It explores today’s high-profile debates over the roll [sic] of the press, including clashes between journalists and the government over whether or not a reporter has the right to keep a source confidential. In the summer of 2003, the news media were [*cough*] raising questions of Saddam Hussein’s weapons regime [*cough*] just as news about the war grew more violent by the day. New critics emerged, and there were more questions over whether or not the Administration overstated the problem of WMD.”
The film is presumably either Part I or Part II of the Frontline series called News War, broadcast on US TV in February 2007. I caught a brief glimpse of the ad, and it appeared to feature Josh Wolf, the US journalist whose imprisonment for contempt for refusing to hand over to police video footage that he shot at a demonstration in San Francisco in January 2005 was completely ignored by Australian media until his final release in April of this year, when one article appeared in The Age. And, of course, at the same time that the liberal broadsheet was playing the new game from Victoria Police called ‘Spot the Person of Interest’.
In other news, Bangladeshi journalist Tasneem Khalil, who in May of this year was arrested and tortured by Bangladeshi police, has been forced to flee the country. The following is a letter, dated August 4, from his wife:
This is Shuchi, Tasneem’s wife. I mailed you after Tasneem’s arrest. Now I am mailing you to let you know that I am personally thankful to all of you as you circulated the news of his arrest as much as you could and helped your best to free him. As for some strategical and safety issues Tasneem is maintaining a level of silence for some time I am thanking all of you on his behalf.
It took all of us 22 hours to get him out of [Directorate General of Forces Intelligence — Bangladeshi ‘intelligence’] HQ. And we as a family will always remember what have all of you done for us. It was exactly 12:45 am 10th May midnight and from that point on the whole thing started. Tasneem had been working on a project with Human Rights Watch that month with two other researchers. One was out of Dhaka and another came to my rescue from my flat where I was all alone with my six month old son then. I started calling people and tried to spread the word as much as possible. All I knew I can’t let this go this way. I knew Tasneem had friends who would fight for him. And I mailed you. I mailed using his Gmail account as I knew the pass but after a few hours I saw I couldn’t log in. Later I came to know from Tasneem he had to surrender his email passwords. To some of you I could reply earlier and to some of you I couldn’t. I am sorry for this. I should have thanked all of you earlier.
After getting out of detention we were in hiding for a month, always changing places and by this time Human Rights Watch was negotiating with the authorities for his passport. After long negotiations we flew out of Bangladesh for safety abroad. And trust me it was not easy. I dunno how many of you can think of life as running away with a six month old kid and no money.
I was deeply hurt to see some false news against Tasneem using and fabricating his emails and statements given while being tortured. I was always his partner in everything he did and never I saw him in anti-Bangladesh activities. I was also surprised to see that DGFI is basically trying to defocus the whole issue by using these fabricated news and tr[ying] to create confusion between the huge circle of friends Tasneem has. They chose a few people’s name whom and whose family members are deeply respected by me and Tasneem and have always supported us, and planted provocative news around media saying things which was never there. Although I was concerned at some point that as we weren’t in any position to speak and defend ourselves, we would be misunderstood. But thanks to all of you, you are the people who knew the difference between truth and false.
I would always be grateful to Human Rights Watch, CNN, Bloggers in Bangladesh and International platforms, Drishtipat, Somewhere in Blog, Newspapers around the world and everyone who received my call at odd hours and tolerated my screams and shouts.
Anyways I just wanted to thank everyone and with the promise that this effort you have put after Tasneem will not be wasted. Although we are still homeless, lost our country, this very incident has made Tasneem more stronger and with all your best wishes we will survive definitely. I hope Tasneem will surface very soon with the truths he needs to say and to clear away any confusion created.
Keep us in your prayers.
See also : HRW Open Letter to Fakhruddin Ahmed (August 1, 2007) | In addition to critical reporting, Tasneem also helped to produce the HRW report Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force (December 2006) | Battle for S Asia flood victims (BBC, August 6)